Sarah Jane Holman


by Jennie Johnson (daughter)

In the little town of Santaquin, Utah, on June 13, 1858 was born a winsome baby girl.  She was the second child in a family of thirteen, having one brother older.

Her father, James Alonzo Holman was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  He had gone with his father’s family in its moving with the church until they were finally driven to the west.  The grandfather was called when the first group of pioneer came, to drive Brigham Young’s sheep across the plains.  James was left to assist in the preparations and the following year, drove his father’s family across the plains.  He spent his thirteenth birthday just before they entered the valley.  He was a man of sterling qualities, whose sense of responsibility had developed early in life.  He personally had known the Prophet Joseph Smith.  He was ambition and enterprising, dependable and generous, almost to a fault.

Her mother, Sarah Ann Mathis, was a pioneer daughter of southern extraction, having been born in Carol County, Tennessee.  She came into the valley in 1852.  Her father died of cholera on the plains, leaving a wife and thirteen children to make their way in this new country.  She was sixteen when her father died and she realized their loss; and in this great grief and the trials that followed she developed a patience, fortitude and gentleness that remained with her throughout her life.

The morning the wee stranger made her advent into the world, most of the people of the town were assembled in church to be organized into a ward and vote for their first Bishop.  So interested were the towns people in this church event that the young father had difficulty in finding someone to care for the new baby when she arrived.  It so happened that the grandfather was made the new Bishop.  He blessed her, giving her the name Sarah Jane, in honor of her mother and her mother’s youngest sister, who was a great favorite in the family.

She was a beautiful baby with black hair and eyes, the joy of the family, and a special favorite of her grandfather.  The family remained here until “Little Sis”, as she was affectionately nicknamed, was four years old, when they moved to Fountain Green,  There her father engaged in the mercantile business.  Sometimes she went back to Spring Lake and Santaquin and even to Payson, to visit with grandparents and the many relatives who lived there.  Not the pleasantest memories remain of these trips, for she usually got so homesick before she could get back that the trip was nearly spoiled.  It mother and the younger children went, she was all right.  Then her grandmother made a big bed on the floor for all the children.  There were no such things as screen doors and the house seemed very much open as they lay on the floor and listened to the strange noises of the night.  Sometimes a band of Indians would past on their way to some celebration shouting, whooping and yelling.  Imagine the feelings of a nervous little girl, as she was suddenly awakened from a sound sleep to hear these wild sounds mixed with the rattle of their furniture and fixtures and their strange language as they moved along.

When she was six years old she started to school, under a Mrs. Jones.  Later, Nancy Caldwell was her teacher for a short time.

Now the Indians began to be troublesome.  Whenever they could, they would drive away the horses and cattle from the town.  Each week they became more daring.  The people of the town drove their cows out on the divide to feed during the summer days and men and boys took turns caring for them.  One day the Indians came suddenly upon them, killed some of the men, wounded others, and drove away all the animals they could.  The remaining herders gathered their frightened animals together and hurried back to town.

This spring her father broke his arm near the shoulder.  The bone was badly splintered and refused to knit.  The nearest doctor lived at Provo, a Dr. Riggs.  Trips could not be made often.  He was kept in bed nearly all summer in an almost helpless condition.  No casts were made such as we have now. “Sis” was only a little girl, but she was old enough to realize how helpless they would be if the Indians should come upon them.  She heard repeated the stories of these treacherous people coming upon the travelers in their camps and killing them; how they came into town carrying the scalp of the herd boy on a long pole.  She watched her mother and knew when she was worried and afraid.

During the winter months the Indians were less troublesome, but when spring came they began again.  They were really on the warpath now.  The people were advised  to move to larger settlements where they could better protect themselves.  They began to make preparations to move.

One warm May afternoon in 1866, her little sister, Zilpha, disappeared.  Excitement reigned supreme.  After much hunting and inquiring she was found under her mother’s bed where she had crawled and gone to sleep.  They took her out but she complained of a pain in her head.  She grew rapidly worse with what seemed to be brain fever.  For eight days the struggle between life and death went on, then the little sufferer was released and her spirit took its flight.  Imagine for one minute the conditions.  They could not leave their little treasure in this hostile country.  They must flee from their home for protection.  The little body was prepared for burial, their household effects were loaded into the wagons and with heavy hearts they started toward the north.  They brought what they could of their cattle and other belongings and came as far as Santaquin.  Here little Zilpha was laid to rest in the family plot at the town cemetery and here the family remained for a few weeks with relatives and friends.  Then they came on to Pleasant Grove and “Little Sis” spent her eighth birthday soon after they landed here.  Now her father told her she must get rid of this nickname and when people asked her name, she was to tell them her real name, Sarah Jane.  Until now she hardly knew she had any other name.

They obtained property with a frame house which stood in the southeast corner of the lot into which the family moved.  A granary with a cellar under it was later added to and improved and became the home that stands there today.

The following September she was baptized in Utah Lake by Henson Walker,  this was quite an event in her young life.  the horses were hitched to the big wagons and all the children in the neighborhood were gathered up and taken.  A neighbor, Sister Mary Armistead, was asked to take charge of Jane as her mother could not go with her.  This was the first time she had seen the lake.  The water rolled up near the top of the bank.  It was necessary for those in charge to find a shallow place far along the north shore toward American Fork.  A great fear seized the little girl at sight of so much water and she wished she were at home with mother.  The kind lady tried to comfort and reassure her but insisted that the ordinance be performed.

When school started she went to Mary Ann Winters.  Mrs. Winters had a gold watch and the very quietest little girls were given a chance to sit at the front and wear the watch.  The Winters’ family raised a few strawberries, the first ever  raised in town, and when these were in season the good children were given a luscious ripe berry.  She enjoyed these treats often.  When the children were ill-behaved they were punished by standing in the corner with a dunce-cap on their heads.

The following year Rosalie Driggs was her teacher.  Later, William Frampton, Lewis Robison and Sidney Dark were her teachers.  At first her only book was a blue backed speller.  Later a history book, left from her father’s stock of merchandise at Fountain Green, fell into her hands.  It was the first book of its kind in Pleasant Grove.  Mrs. Winter used it for the school.  Jane was fond of this study and also of grammar.  She read everything she could find to read.  She was apt in spelling, often taking part in the spelling bees along side of the big boys who towered far above her.

In the fall of 1866 the family was again called upon to pass through sorrow.  Little Frankie, about 2 ½ years old, died of the croup.  The father was away from home at the time and the mother had a young baby only a few months old.  The older children tried to share the responsibility and felt keenly the loss of the little sister and brother, both in less than six months.  There were still five children in the family.

There were few conveniences in those days and everything must be done by hand.  This gave the little eight-year old girl many duties and she could go to school only a few weeks in the winter.  He father had freighted from Salt Lake City to Pioche, Nevada with two wagons fastened together drawn by three span of mules.  Later, he began to work for the railroad.  At one time her mother took the baby and went with her husband  to cook for the men at the railroad camp.  Grandmother Mathis was living with the family at the time.  She became very ill and caused the little granddaughter much worry before the mother could get home.

About this time the first buggy came to Pleasant Grove.  It was owned by Lon Farnsworth, who lived west of town.  He had a sister, Harriet, who was a dear friend of Jane’s.  these two used to often ride home with him and walk, back to town.  The thrill of riding in the new buggy paid them amply for the long walk.

After the railroad was finished, her father took a contract to haul wood from American Fork canyon and Jane went with him to help cook for the men.  She was sixteen years old now and quite a grown-up young lady.

Across the street from her father’s home lived the Walker family and in that family was one boy by the name of Appollos Benjamin who early in life showed a fondness for the neighbor girl.  She often went horseback riding, wagon riding, to dances, candy pulls and peach cuttings with the boys of the town, but none seemed to suit her just like Ben.  He had worked on his father’s farm, now he went in the canyon to work at what is known as Community Flat.  She spent this summer in the same canyon at Deer Creek, cooking for the men who worked there.  There had been a railroad in the canyon, but this summer the rails were taken up and when the cooks came down in the fall, they came on the running gears of a wagon over these ties.

In October 1874 these young people, with several other young couples were called to go to the Endowment House and receive the blessings there given.

After coming home from the canyon, she helped her cousin, Mrs. Elizabeth Driggs, who had quite a family of small children.  One day each week she washed for her, rubbing on the board.  When that was done the house must be cleaned and a big kitchen floor scrubbed—this was done on her hands and knees.  It always took a big day for this work, for which she received $.50.  she did this for ten weeks and with the money she earned, she bought a pair of time shoes that were made to order by Fred Fage, who worked in Mr. Beers’ shoe shop.

Then she went to Butterfield to help cook for the men who hauled ore.  She remained there until February, come home once a month.  Sophronia Walker was with her, and together they had many interesting experiences.  Later, she worked for Henry Simpson, the village blacksmith.  Her experiences were many and varied.

During these years of responsibility, she learned to cook well, sew, make soap, tend to the dying of cloth; in fact everything that came in the management of a home was tried.  From the products of nature she learned to make many beautiful colors.  The madar root furnished a brilliant red, the yellows were made from copperous, the green from peach leaves, and the blue from indigo powder dissolved in the blue dye pot or chamber lye as it was called.

During this time her father had kept the feed yards in town and here many travelers stopped.  Here also the horses were kept and cared for, for the Pony Express, her father riding south to Manti and back.  Later, a stage-coach with four horses took the place of the Pony Express.  This coach met the train at Lehi, the terminus and carried the passengers and mail on south as far as Frisco.  Years before this her father had been a member of Y X, a company under contract to Brigham Young to carry the mail back across the plains.  He was well acquainted with the work and knew how everything had to be cared for.  As the stage neared town, the driver began to whoop and yell.  This was the signal that his horses must be cared for and replaced by fresh ones with which to go on.  Everything must be made ready in a few minutes, no matter what time of the day or night they should come.  This experience gave the young girl a training in definiteness of purpose, precision and dependability that would remained with her throughout her life.

Her first work in American Fork canyon was not so much a success financially-for the cooks.  Now her father gave her $20 in part payment for this work with which she bought 20 pounds of feathers for a feather bed.  No girl could begin housekeeping until she had a feather bed.  About this time Miss Bell West, a girl friend was preparing to get married.  She needed sewing done so she hired Jane to do it.  With the money she received from this work, she added to her own trousseau.

She had been keeping company with A. B. for about two years.  During the winter of 1875-76, her father lost his home.  He had borrowed money to go into the saloon business along with his feed yards.  This venture proved a failure and his home must go to satisfy his creditors.  His family consisted mostly of boys.  He had no land here, so he decided to go back to Fort Green where they had lived before and he could get plenty of land and furnish work for his boys.

When this decision was made, another decision soon followed.  It was 75 miles to the new home.  The trip must be made by team, taking two days each way.  Ben realized that this would be a serious handicap.  He was a firm believer in the scriptures and had for nearly two years loved his neighbor’s daughter as himself.  Arrangements were made and on the 24th of April 1876 this happy young couple made their way back to the Endowment House and were sealed for time and all eternity.  After a quiet little wedding, so typical of their love, they settled down to their life together.

Her people moved away and they occupied the home they left.  Her mother left the window shades, some curtains, and part of the floor coverings.  Their furniture consisted of a stove, a wood bedstead, six chairs, clock, and a mirror.  They bought $10 worth of dishes and cooking utensils and kitchen equipment.  This seemed almost extravagant for those times.

Their first baby was born March 17m 1877 and they named him Benjamin.  October 12, 1878 James Henson was born.  Their first girl was born August 5, 1880 whom they named Jennie.

In May of the following year they moved out to the new place in Lindon.  A new place it was.  Two rooms built of rock hauled from the hills.  Indians came through this area from the Uintah Reservation on their way to Salt Lake City during the summer and fall. Her experience as a child caused feelings of fear and dread at sight of these people, although now they were friendly and often stopped to beg.  Aunt Margaret came to stay with them at this time.  She was a wonderful woman.  March 26, 1884 Lawrence Ross was born.  He was a good baby and gave much less trouble than the sick little girl.

During this summer she was called to act as Relief Society teacher with Charlotta Johnson as her companion.  She made her first trip around her district in September of that year, carrying Lawrence, who was then about six month old.  They made the trip on foot, taking turns carrying the baby boy.  Their beat took them along the highway to the canyon road, along the canyon road nearly to the mountain and back across through the tall sagebrush-home. At each place they were kindly received and rested while they delivered their message.  It was a hard trip and she was sick for several days following it.

Jesse Myron was born December 15, 1885.  At birth he had an extra finger, which hung by a small skin to the middle joint of  the little finger on each hand.  When he was about a week old the “Dr. Lady”, Mrs. Rogers, undertook to remove them which nearly cost the baby’s life.  one hand bled so much that he was nearly gone before they could stop it.  He was several years gaining his strength back and remained pale and delicate looking until he was quite a big boy.  October 1, 1887 Robert was born.  This made the seventh baby and the oldest was only ten past.

In the first day of August 1888 she took six of the children and drove to Fort Green for a visit.  James H. stayed at home with father.  She had not made the trip for sometime.  Now they had a buggy and could go comfortable.  It took two days on the road each way.  It was a trip never to be forgotten.

Early in September, Jennie came down with typhoid fever.  Sister Culimer came again to the rescue.  She did everything she could but the child grew steadily worse.  She was delirious for many days.  Her tongue was parched and so swollen that it was impossible to get anything down her throat.  The fever-racked body struggled between life and death.  Those who waited upon her knew that only the power of God could save her.  Their fasting and faith and prayers brought Divine help and she began to mend.  What a relief to anxious parents when at last they could see a gradual improvement.

In October 1891 Ben left for the Central States Mission.  Jane had not been well for sometime, but had tried to keep up to help him get ready to go.  The  day after he left she went to bed to stay for sometime, for she was down with a fever.  For a while it was feared that the missionary would have to return home, but providence and kind friends came again to the rescue.  She was glad when she was well enough to resume her duties with her family and with the primary children where she labored as a teacher.

When the Lindon Ward was organized she was made a member of the Old Folks Committee, and a trustee of the Relief Society.  The ward organization had been given a city lot when they were cut off from Pleasant Grove.  This was sold under the direction of the trustees and with the money received, a granary was built in which to store their wheat.  This wheat had to be changed every year in order to prevent weevil from getting into it.  A market must be found and new wheat put in to replace the old.  She held this position until the General Authorities advised the storing of all Relief Society wheat in the elevators that had been built for that purpose.  The granary was sold and there was no longer need for trustees, so they were released.  In 1892 she was called to act as a Sunday School teacher and continued in this work for many yeas.

During the time Ben was on his mission she had an opportunity to use to the fullest extent her executive ability.  Through her careful management of affairs and the blessings of the Lord, they were able to provide for themselves, keep the father in the mission field, and began to buy a piece of property they had long wanted to own.

In the fall of 1897 after the children had gone away to school, she became ill.  Typhoid fever developed and a little later pneumonia set in.  her life hung in the balance for many days.  Again Sister Culimer was at her bedside.  A fast was held and the members of the ward joined with the family in its petition to the Lord in her behalf.  A change came for the better.  When the family came home from school for the Thanksgiving vacation, she was improving slowly, but was still unable to sit up except for a few minutes at a time.  When Christmas time came she was able to be up and about, but was thin and pale, and her hair nearly all fell out.

In September 1898 James H. began to teach and could now provide for his family, so they moved away.  Jennie continued at school one more year, then she began to teach.  Ben had finished his mission and returned in April 1900.  What a time of rejoicing.  All home again and well and happy.  That winter Ben was married and the next year Lawrence began his school work at the University of Utah.  The next year Jesse and Robert started at the same institution.  Margaret went with the boys to keep house for them, but would not go to school.

In the fall of 1905 Lawrence contracted typhoid fever, after he had started to school.  He was very sick for a long time.  At last the fever left him and he began to mend, but was unable to go to school any more until the following year.  In the spring of 1907 the tree youngest children graduated from the Normal Department of the University.  Lawrence and Robert began to teach the next fall but Jesse went back to continue a course in Civil Engineering which required three more years.

During the summer of 1909 they fixed up around the home.  Cement walks were put in, the house was hard finished and painted and things were improved generally.  In the fall Lawrence and Robert were both married and Jesse was in his senior year in college.

Now they could begin to think of the future and of their own comfort and pleasure.  They laid many plans.  They hoped to do some things that had been denied them until now.  They would go east for a visit with relatives, they would work in the temple, and many other happy experiences were planned.

At Christmas time all the family gathered home for a real celebration.  Father, mother, all the children and grandchildren, 31 all together.  A few days later father contracted a severe cold and his health began to fail rapidly, until the evening of February 3, 1910 and his spirit took its flight.  For thirty-five years they had lived together.  All those years they had been devoted to each other.  The light seemed to fade out of her life.  she could not be comforted.  The once sunny, hopeful disposition that had been characteristic of her life, became melancholy and almost morose.  She became pale and thin, and sobbed in her sleep.  Her father and mother gave up their home and came to live with her to try to console her.  The family and friends spent much time with her.  When school was out, Jesse came home and was with her most of the time until he was married in August 1912.

Back in 1908 Ben’s brother-in-law, Chris Iverson became very ill.  While upon his deathbed, he asked mother to take his little twelve year old daughter, Evelyn, and care for her.  This she did, being a real mother to her, sending her to school and giving her the same opportunities that she had given her own.  Evelyn completed a normal course at the BYU and taught school until she married September 24, 1924.

Her parents remained with her as long as they lived.  She was always patient and considerate of them doing everything she could to make them happy.  Her mother passed away in 1917 and her father in 1920.

In 1918 the dream of making a trip east was finally realized.  James H. and his wife took her with them when he went to attend the National Educational Association Convention in Philadelphia.  They visited many places of interest and came home by way of Michigan where they spent a week with relatives of the Walker family.

In 1927 she suffered an attack of pneumonia.  After that she did not try to stay at home during the winter months, but lived with her children, making her headquarters with her daughter, Jennie.  During the summer she tried to be at her home where she tended a few flowers, entertained her friends and relatives and did the things she enjoyed.

On September 20, 1937 her, James H., passed away.  This was a great shock to her, but she appeared to rally.  The following February 23, her son Robert died.  This was too much for her and she gradually became weaker.

Early in may of 1939 she went to spend a few days with her daughter, Margaret West.  While there she fell and hurt her hip.  At first the doctor thought it was only shock and a bruise, but a few days later it was discovered that her hip was broken.  She suffered a nervous shock and from then on she suffered intensely.  There seemed to be nothing to hold her leg together.  Some of the family stayed at her bedside night and day, trying to relieve her pain.  On Sunday afternoon an old time friend called to see her.  As he talked to hr she fell asleep.  After he had gone the family realized that the end was near.  She seemed to be resting and at peace.  They watched her constantly during the night and the following day until about 3:30 p.m., May 22, 1939, when she stepped over the threshold.

She always tried to tend to her church duties.  She paid her tithing faithfully by the month.  The last payment she made was only a few days before she passed away.  Although she was suffering intensely she still thought of that and wanted it done.

(from the files of Mary Jean Caldwell)

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